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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Romeo, Wingcom Watchdog, dies at 14

Romeo going on vacation to Florida
As I am writing this, Romeo, our beloved Italian Greyhound, is being put to sleep. It's over.
May God accept his soul.

Romeo was adopted from PetSmart.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

U.S. students poor in math, average in science and reading

According to a Census Bureau tip sheet, U.S. 15-year-old students scored below average in math and about average in science and reading when compared with their international peers. Over the last decade, U.S. scores have been mostly flat. Find out more on Dec. 20 at approximately 9:20 a.m. EST as Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, discusses statistics from the Program for International Student Assessment.

Each Friday, C-SPAN’s “America by the Numbers” segment features information from the federal statistical system. The program highlights the trends and allows the public to call in or email their questions and views.

For more info., contact the Census Bureau's Public Information Office at 301-763-3030.
 

Christians bid to face fear with hope in ecumenical gathering


Orthodox/Catholic Ecumenical Gathering

“O Come, O come, Emmanuel...
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

While Pope Francis was setting an example of inclusion on his 77th birthday by inviting a homeless man and his dog into his residence, another gathering was occurring on Earth - a service where Roman Catholics prayed, sang, and celebrated the joys of Christmas inside a Greek orthodox church. Will wonders never cease!

For eight years, members of these two religious groups have gathered in Atlanta to promote Christian unity. December 17, 2013 was no exception, and the theme of the ecumenical service held at the Cathedral of the Annunciation during Advent gave guidance on overcoming fears of "others" with love and hope.

The processional looked like a scene from the Knights Templar, with holy men and women in black/white vestments and gold, red and silver crosses. The church was filled with mosaics of a dying yet triumphant Jesus, his followers, and Mary, the Theotokos, center stage. An adorned Christmas tree was to the left of the altar, while Catholic leaders sat separately from Orthodox Greek clergy in crowded pews.

Archbishop Gregory
Atlanta’s Most Reverend Catholic Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said the birth of Jesus was heralded by angels who spoke to shepherds guarding flocks. The same message must go forth now to people of faith, he said.

“Don’t be afraid....God is about to do something spectacular and wonderful,” Gregory said. “Salvation is coming to an often cynical world.”

Gregory said he is praying for a single church, “a bond severed long ago by sins of disagreement, pride, and arrogance lodged in the heart...an outdated argument.”  He said this message should be heard throughout Rome and Constantinople. “Christmas is a time for transformation. Believe in what the angels sang about…in angelic truth.”


Metropolitan Alexios
Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Archbishop Alexios Panagiotopoulos said in order for Christians to be unified, they must befriend and "see one another in the eyes." He bid attendees to not watch and examine others, but to watch and examine themselves first, by concentrating on how they are sharing gifts God has bestowed on them.

In an interview after the service, Alexios said changing the world starts with the individual and radiates outward to the masses.

“It seems there were more people here last year,” said a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem from Decatur, Ga. Maybe her observation is a sign of the times.


Catholics gathered and listened to messages in ecumenical service.
Hymns were sung by the Holy Spirit Church Choir, the Annunciation Cathedral Chantors, St. John the Wonderworker Church Choir and Chantors; the Romanian Carolers from St. Mary Romanian, St. Mary of Egypt OCA, and Saint Constantine & Helen Romanian Church Choirs and Chantors.

It was a night to remember, a holy night filled with good intentions and prospects of peace. May God have mercy on us all.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mandela tribute: a life well lived, rest with God

White House photo of Michelle Obama and Mandela
I must come out of the shadows to pay tribute to a man I never met: Madiba Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Upon his death, I talked to whites from South Africa who had met him.  They said he was a towering figure who they revered because of his Christian qualities and his decision to not ostracize or retaliate against those who harmed him.  They said Mandela helped South Africa lessen the economic slavery of its indigenous population. Mandela was multi-faceted in his humanity, intelligence, and commitment to freedom. Synonymous with struggle, hard work, forgiveness, planning, and moral leadership, Mandela leaves a legacy of a tenacious, spirited elder.

Although praised in death, he was considered dangerous by the U.S. government which placed him on a terrorist watch list until he was 90 years old. Mandela, perhaps, was a 20/21st century Denmark Vesey who became a freedom fighter icon after his release from prison. His "hero" brand was fueled by the entertainment industry. His knowledge of the law, perhaps, and his savvy political posturing turned him into a modern-day saint. After spending 27 years as a prisoner, he spent five years as South Africa's president and another 14 years being remembered.

One wonders whether Osama bin Laden would have been deemed Mandela-like if he had lived another 40 years. One also wonders what will happened to Mandela's beloved motherland, rich in resources and poor people, invaded by China and other countries in the guise of future development. Ravaged by AIDS and poverty, his people are dancing in colorful garbs of remembrance now, but they are in need of a new protector.

The world has been preparing for Mandela's exit from his earthly body for months,  and his fatherly messianic status remains unabated, continuing through his many foundations. Some say that Mandela's manner of reconciliation was predicated on survival techniques while others say he forgave whites who profited with the adoption of a new constitution under his rule which gave them land rights and blacks few baubles other than political office. Too often blacks appear as figureheads while whites maintain all the power the land and natural resources bear. Mandela, however, raised the level of human consciousness in a world still divided by color, race, and class.

May Madiba now rest in peace while we continue the example he set.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

No more blogging for a while...

Goodbye for now.
Dear Readers,

Since I began blogging 563 posts ago, I have received a lot of kudos for my efforts but no real monetary benefit from my hard work. I have even been informed that some of my remarks may have kept me from getting a full time job, and the government may be monitoring my posts.

Today I have decided to take a hiatus from blogging, but since my views in previous posts have already been documented, I will leave my blog up for historical purposes.

I hope that I have informed you on some matters and highlighted some accomplishments that you may not have known about, since most "news" is controlled by major news agencies at the discretion of assignment editors.

Thanks for your support. Now, on to my book writing...will get back to you later.

Tomi

Monday, July 29, 2013

And the monetary power couple is...

Official FRBSF photo

Janet Yellen is Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve, making her next in line to succeed Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman in January 2014. In order for her to be granted this position, Yellen will have to be appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate. According to her Federal Reserve bio,  "Dr. Yellen has written on a wide variety of macroeconomic issues, while specializing in the causes, mechanisms, and implications of unemployment."

FOLLOW THE MONEY! 
 
Her husband, George Akerlof, is an American economist and Nobel Prize winner.  Akerlof coauthor Efficiency Wage Models of the Labor Market with his wife. Their theories "propose rationales for the efficiency wage hypothesis in which employers pay above the market-clearing wage, in contradiction to the conclusions of neoclassical economic," according to Wikipedia.
Photo by Wyap91

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tribute to Earnest C. Smith, Sr., NASA's lunar rover, guidance systems scientist

Earnest C. Smith, Sr. (l) and Earnest C. Smith, Jr. in 1975
Through this blog, I have reconnected with one of my former classmates, Earnest Smith, Jr., from St. Joseph's Mission School in Huntsville, Ala. St. Joseph's was one of the first schools to be integrated in the South, and many of my classmates were children of employees at NASA and Redstone Arsenal.

As a consequence, I would like to honor a person who made major contributions at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a U.S. government agency responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

Earnest C. Smith, Sr. 
Smith holds a BS degree in Mathematics from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (1956) and a Masters in Mathematics from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville (1964). He is a former high school Mathematics instructor at Coleman High School in Pine Bluff and a 1963 Fellow of the National Science Foundation. He joined the Marshal Space Flight Center in 1964 as a decorated colonel of the U.S. Army Reserves.

Smith and team view controls at NASA.
In the mid-1980's, Smith helped to develop the Flight Robotics Laboratory which studies issues involving orbital rendezvous and docking systems.


In 1989, Smith and NASA were issued patent #4,821,425 for a cylindrical surface profile and diameter measuring tool. This invention is basically a metric, tamper-proof, stainless steel mounting fastener. Only 3,774 patents have been issued to NASA in its history which began in 1958.

Smith is a scientist and inventor.
Smith retired from the Marshal Space Flight Center in 1999 as a Senior Executive Service (SES) Level II. While there, he excelled as a lunar rover expert. His technical paper, "Lunar Roving Vehicle Navigation System Performance Review," was co-authored with William C. Mastin.

NASA Partnership with Alabama A&M
Smith also was director of the Astrionics Laboratory. His most prestigious awards include two NASA Exceptional Service Awards and the coveted Astronaut's Snoopy Award, personally presented by NASA astronauts.

Smith on field at football game,  Alabama A&M University vs University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff
Smith also taught an adult Sunday School class at St. John AME Church. He still lives in Huntsville with his wife of 61 years, Bessie, and they are the parents of four sons (Earnest, Jr., Keith, Karnie, and Cydale) and have nine grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
Bessie and Earnest Smith, Sr.


Wingcom Watchdog salutes this space pioneer who made major contributions to science.

(Photos provided by Earnest C. Smith, Jr.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Chicago's black youth living in fear on South Side

Kids who used to stand outside are now afraid to be on the streets of Chicago, said one South Side youth. (Photo taken in the 1990's by Kurk Johnson)

"Things are getting ridiculous on the South Side of Chicago," said a recent high school graduate. I met a beautiful 18 year old girl visiting relatives in metro Atlanta who is from Chicago. I asked, "Is crime up there as bad as they're reporting?"
 
"Yes, it's very bad in my neighborhood and also in Detroit. There have been hundreds of crimes committed since school let out, mostly gang related."

"What are the gangs doing? Are these crimes drug related?" I asked.

"It's petty crimes, stealing whatever they can to sell for money. Violent crimes are also being committed in retaliation for what one gang member has done to a rival gang member.

"Parents are instilling the wrong things into their children. Twelve to seventeen year olds left on their own have turned to gang banging while school is out. Before that, my 12 year old sister was robbed of her cell phone on the way to school, and her cell phone didn't even work," said the young woman who didn't want to be identified. She lives near S. Lowe where my uncle lives.

What does this young woman think will remedy the situation?  "Instilling proper lifestyles." She worries about her younger siblings "who aren't allowed to go outside for fear they'll get in the mix of crime and violence."

I asked her whether there was a Boys and Girls Club nearby, and she said, "No. Our leaders must create programs to keep kids active and off the streets."

This young woman had an innocent yet puzzled look on her face when I spoke to her. Both of us were grasping for answers. "I don't feel afraid or nervous for my own safety because I've lived there a long time and know how to stay away from certain situations, but I'm afraid for my younger brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews.

"I live with this everyday, fear for their safety, but I feel it will get better."

She is maintaining  her sense of positiveness amidst anxiety.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ron Seay: exceptional customer service in resort industry

One can choose anywhere to lodge while on vacation in Florida, but if you want to feel like family and receive outstanding customer service, Ron Seay can supply all your needs at a first rate resort.

It was a delight to find out that Seay, a graduate of Kentucky State University and Cornell University, is the front office manager at Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center. What a joy to visit with him on our vacation in St. Pete.

According to a 2010 company press release, Seay "has creative ideas...to enhance customer satisfaction and ensure friendly and efficient transactions in all front office procedures." Seay was formerly an employee with the Clearwater Hilton.

Hats off to Seay. Keep up the good work!


For more information on this resort, go to: http://www.sirata.com/
 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Americans with Disabilities Act marks 23rd anniversary

July 26 will mark the 23rd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) which guarantees equal opportunity for people with disabilities in public accommodations, commercial facilities, employment, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications. 

The Act was signed by President George H. W. Bush. "Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down," is what Bush is quoted as saying after the Act became law.

56.7 million people were living with a disability in the United States in 2010. They represented 19 percent of the civilian non-institutionalized population. Disabilities include, for instance, having difficulty seeing, hearing, having speech understood, walking, bathing, dressing, eating, preparing meals, going outside the home, or doing housework, having Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism, cerebral palsy, or dyslexia, and being frequently depressed or anxious.

Statistics by age categories:
• 8 percent of children under 15 had disabilities.
• 21 percent of people 15 and older had disabilities.
• 17 percent of people 21 to 64 had disabilities.
• 50 percent of adults 65 and older had disabilities.

Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/p70-131.pdf

Politics on highways...

Here are some photos I took while riding through Florida and Georgia, USA.

Ghostbusters car


On back of jeep

Vietnamese restaurant

The Old South remembered
 

Ron Francis continues to amaze visitors at eclectic art studio in Tampa, Fla.

Portrait of Ron Francis
Most artists can be defined as creative, but Tampa's Ron Francis (Hutchinson) is over the top!

My family recently visited his new 5,000 square foot-evolving studio equipped with Tarzan-like ladders, clawed-petrified cactus furniture, reno-vated cars and campers, and a mountain of paint cans.  Thinking outside the box is an understatement for Francis, 47, a Venetian plaster expert who also dabbles in photography, murals, and museum art.

"An idea for a piece can come from any number of places, a certain frame of mind, a color or a newspaper article," Francis says of his work. He is a Philadelphia native and 1986 graduate in Visual Communications and Design from the Art Institute of Philadelphia. 

Ron Francis works on museum piece while Kurk Johnson contemplates idea. (Photo by Tomi Johnson)

Newly installed artwork in client abode.
"Sometimes it’s as simple as the canvas speaking directly to me...my work represents a transcendental, emotional language that people immediately understand, regardless of culture, race, religion and so forth," Francis says.

For more information on Francis, go to: http://www.ronfrancisart.com/178717/home/.



Francis with Ayron, Ilea, Daniel, Tomi and Kurk Johnson (Photo by Cozette Roche)

Frank Grant celebrates 80th birthday at Karate Do event


Sirata Beach Resort, St. Pete Beach, Fla...Members of The World Shorin-Ryu Karate-Do Federation decided to travel from it headquarters in Piqua, Ohio to celebrate the life of Grandmaster Frank Grant by hosting the 2013 WSKF Internationals on the beach, July 22-24.

Grant, born the ninth of twelve children in Paris, Ky., is presently Chairman of the Board of WSKF. "He, his students and his student's - students have raised thousands of karate-ka through the ranks and degrees of Matsubayashi-ryu Shorin-ryu, worldwide," according to the organization's website. 

Grant's soon to be published book, My Promise to the Master written with Jeff Slutsky, is a tribute to his teacher, Japanese Karate Master Shoshin Nagamine.

Grant poses with Kurk, Daniel, Tomi, Ayron, and Ilea Johnson of Atlanta WingChun in  Marietta, Ga. (http://www.iaw-atlanta.com/)
To learn more about this organization, go to: http://www.shorin-ryu.net/index.php.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Lexicon of black woes increasing; win-win scenario needed

We'll all need new street clothes if violence continues.
(Photo by Ayron Johnson, costume by Daniel Johnson)
When my lawyer friend asked me last night what I was going to write about in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, my first response was, "There's nothing else to be said and nothing else can be done. Trayvon's time for reincarnation has passed. Even a civil suit will gain nothing since Zimmerman has no assets. Rioting will only put more of us in the morgue."

It appears MLK's character dream has been trampled in the mud underneath Trayvon's body. Some are predicting a race war on the horizon, but not the one foreseen with whites fighting blacks....this one could be browns fighting browns. Didn't Hispanic George Zimmerman kill Black Trayvon Martin?

We can't just point the finger at others, especially when we are killing ourselves. According to Ebony Magazine, Chicago's Southside  is becoming a killing ground for black on black crime. (Chicago is President Barack Obama's hometown.) Other major cities - Washington, D.C., Detroit, etc. - are in the same shape.

People of color are facing a StarTrek-like Kobayashi Maru, a no-win situation, also called a "lose-lose" situation. We have freedom to choose what to do next, but no reaction will lead to a net gain if we play the game as before.

The solution involves redefining the problem and having the balls to carry out an action plan.

1.  Human life is not prized or valued as it should be, and man has not evolved from his Cain/Able mentality. People are jealous of others and will take a life easily, using the justice system as a crutch. In Zimmerman's case, he killed Trayvon because he was walking in HIS neighborhood. Trayvon  insulted Zimmerman's manhood when faced with fist fight justice. Trayvon was eliminated with one bullet to the heart with no chance of survival. 

2. Genocide is occurring, whether we want to admit it or not. Powers see a need to decrease the population. Abortion, murder, same sex marriage,  are the result of this agenda. 

3. Education denied leads to poverty and death. Trayvon was suspended from school when he was killed. If not for that, he would have been in Miami, not Sanford. As interest rates on college loans double, where will youth who can't afford higher education be? How will they find jobs? How will they pay back non-bankruptible loans?

4. No hope, no future. No faith, no God. Black people have been worshipping preachers and being entertained in church instead of organizing for war and protecting youth. Too many entertainers and basketball players making too much money and not solving problems. Too many youth not getting involved in the political process because they are too busy playing video games and downing liquor shots until daybreak.

What we need to do is work on this race problem from a project management perspective, iteration by iteration. Make it a test students take in school from age five; how to save ourselves!

We need to engage the most advanced  project managers for this task and have it supported by the government, financial and educational institutions, and the religious community.

We need to put a monetary benefit on this project. It needs to be solved and can be solved by 2014. If we can send a man to the moon in the '60's, bail out the banks, and catch Osama bin Laden, we can solve these 21st century human problems before a race war begins, but only if a monetary imperative and win-win scenario evolves. It's all where you place your priorities. You get done what you want.

Stop F******* with the volume. Turn it up!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trayvon Martin is a martyr

Trayvon is a dead witness who was not allowed to defend himself in court.

Trayvon should not have tried to defend himself in order to stay alive on the sidewalk in Sanford, Florida.

Florida's prosecutors defended Trayvon's actions in the "legal" system, not the "justice" system.

Trayvon should have run home when he found himself being stalked by an armed man.

This is a question about race because Trayvon was black and Zimmerman is Hispanic.

This is not the first time a black youth has been killed for no reason but blamed for his own death.

The law handed down from God to Moses was "Do not kill." Zimmerman admitted he killed Trayvon, and the state let him go free. 

"Give us Barabbas" was the cry of the crowd, and the Roman government let a known killer go free and condemned Jesus to death.

Innocents have been killed throughout history because they are easy targets.

Message from Zimmerman's not guilty verdict: The State, run by police/vigilantes/lawyers/people with money, is in control in U.S. courts.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Breaking news: Trayvon Martin used self defense, not Zimmerman

No matter what happens in the Zimmerman trial, don't stop fighting for right! Don't give up your right to be free, to say what you believe and to walk where you want to tread. God is still in control. Trust in Him and not your own understanding. The universal truth: Good always overcomes evil!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

In our face: reality in the USA

Do we have the guts to change for the better? (Photo by Tomi Johnson)
"...but oh! what is man, that he dares so to accuse himself?"  Goethe

Tragedy of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman mirrors 21st century America. Assumptions have become reality.

Folks are profiled in minds of people who carry out their own justice. We lock our doors when we see someone approach our car. We tell a promising student to become a janitor instead of a lawyer. We pursue suspicious people and try to play cops. Unsophisticated people are put under the microscope because of the shoes they wear and the writing they read. We lie to protect ourselves instead of living up to our actions. We try to be what we are not. We are inhumane and revile apologizing.

We have ill will for the innocent and shoot them in the heart. We are not our brother's keeper. Our lawmakers let the guilty go free. The convicted stand unforgiven, and we put them into penal institutions where they learn more immorality.We are unsure of reality and don't seek God's guidance in courtrooms.

We don't trust those we claim to love.

We are a tragic people who question our place in the world and our neighbor's view of right and wrong. We are confused.

May God have mercy on us.

Thought for today...

"Racism is not the greatest crime an author can commit, telling the truth is."
This Recording

Great authors of color:
Toni Morrison
James Baldwin
Maryse Conde
Derek Walcott
Robert Hayden

 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Breaking news: Trayvon screamed for help; suffered after being shot in heart


Trayvon Benjamin Martin was the one who was acting in self defense when he was killed by George "Georgie" Zimmerman.

Martin, not Zimmerman, was walking away from and ultimately defend himself from what he believed was a stalker and potential rapist the night he was shot and killed. He used his fists when confronted by a gun.

Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, testified in court that screams on 911 recording were her son's screams for help. Fulton also testified that Martin had his two grandmother's names and her name tattooed on his body.

According to the medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Trayvon Martin, the young black male was alive and suffered after being shot in the heart. Although Martin lived between one to ten minutes after being shot, there was zero chance of survival.

This murder trial hinges on the fact of whether George Zimmerman is a "depraved" individual, of whether shooting an innocent child in the heart at point blank range while he was screaming for help was immoral. This is what the jury will be deciding. Zimmerman was supposed to be "watching" the neighborhood, not taking deadly action with a gun while waiting for police to arrive.

Pic of the day: Frogs

Do not use without permission.
Frogs in rain near swimming pool - Photo by Kurk Johnson - July 4, 2013

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Breaking news: Egyptian military coup choreographed in Cairo

Photo by Tomi Johnson
Ancient Khemet's capital of Cairo is undergoing a military siege now, according to Aljeezera News. General Sameh Seif Al-Yazel, however, says that it was not a coup, but the will of the people.

According to Reuters, the Constitution has also been suspended, and "the president of the supreme constitutional court will act as interim head of state, assisted by an interim council and a technocratic government until new presidential and parliamentary elections are held." Adly Mansour is interim president.

Viewing TV news reports, it appears that the protests and celebrations have been organized and orchestrated.  Fireworks and laser light displays are visible as are hundreds of flags and professional- looking placards.  This type of display has been planned in advance. There are also audio presentations being given over loud speakers and public address system.

The crisis resulted after protesters demanded the removable of democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamic political and religious group. Morsi is said to no longer be President of Egypt, and it is unclear what will happen next.

The CIA World Factbook deems Egypt's military encompassing the Army, Navy, Egyptian Air Force (Al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya il-Misriya), and Egyptian Air Defense Command.

According to a statement posted July 1 on the group's website (http://www.ikhwanweb.com/), "Egypt is going through a period of acute political tension reaching its peak over the last few days with the start of an open sit-in by the Egyptian opposition demanding the toppling of the elected President Mohamed Morsi and another sit-in by supporters of the President who are defending electoral legitimacy... This tension and deadlock has led to violent incidents resulting in numerous victims and the burning of the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood."

Egypt, home of great dynasties, learning institutions, and tourist attractions, is in chaos with an economy devastated since the Arabic Spring of 2011 when former President Hosni Mubarak was removed from power. According to a BBC report, "the UK Foreign Office travel advice to Egypt does talk of 'a high risk of attacks which could be indiscriminate, including in public places frequented by foreigners' ".

Thought for today...

The Creator's power is so great that It's not within our understanding.
---Tomi Johnson


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Black History: Colored laborers paid more in South than North five years after Civil War

Alfred R. Waud, artist. (Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1868 - public domain)
“Gen. C. H. Howard, Assistant Commissioner of the Freedman’s Bureau for the District, is continually receiving applications from all parts of the Union for colored labors, and thus far has found no difficulty in filling all requisitions. Within the past month several hundred have been furnished transportation to different points, both North and South, and the demand for colored labors particularly from the South, seems constantly increasing, former slaveholders universally preferring imported labor, instead of that of their late slaves. Previous to transportation of colored laborers to the South, their employers are required to sign a contract binding themselves, beside paying reasonable wages to their own employees, to furnish them with comfortable quarters, fuel, and medical attendance. The wages of the freemen sent South average about $15 per month for able bodied males, while the wages of the females are in proportion.  No contracts are made for freedmen sent North, who generally receive less compensation for their labors than those sent to the late insurrectionary States.”
April 10, 1866…Front Page, New York Tribune

Friday, June 28, 2013

Quote for today...

"If money had a religion it would be Jewish, but fortunately it doesn't have one, as a result of which it can be venerated by everyone."
Ernesto Pacelli, founder of Banco di Roma, 1880

Thursday, June 27, 2013

South Africa more important than Mandela's abode

SA Kruger Park playing cards
While the world waits and prays for former South African President Nelson "Madiba" Mandela, one must contemplate what significant factor surpasses the country's status as the home of a famous freedom fighter. The word is TRADE.

South Africans have always interested me, and whenever I meet someone who has a somewhat British accent, I ask them where they are from, and when they say South Africa, I immediately think of apartheid and Mandela.

One of the members at church is a white South African, and when I asked him about Mandela, he told me he is wonderful man, a compassionate legend who did not retaliate against the white population after coming to power, much to their surprise.

This nostalgic view needs to be coupled with the knowledge that South Africa has vast riches to behold and trade to develop. Doing research on the most famous diamonds in the world, I found that South Africa has the second richest supply of diamonds, with India being the first. 
 
White House photo of Michelle Obama with Nelson Mandela in 2011.
On June 29, US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia and Sasha will visit South Africa, spending three days in Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said his country is hoping to strengthen trading possibilities. The White House said that the visit would, "underscore the President's commitment to broadening and deepening cooperation between the United States and the people of sub-Saharan Africa to advance regional and global peace and prosperity."

Maybe I should plan my next trip to South Africa and experience it for myself.

For more information about South Africa, go to https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sf.html.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Has end of Civil Rights Movement begun?

Old Ga. state flag - Photo by Tomi Johnson
Are we too afraid to protest - too busy playing video games, worrying about our mortgages, retirement, foreign wars, and our Facebook pages?

Maybe we should contemplate the past. The American Reconstruction Era began in the South after the Civil War. During Reconstruction, former Confederate States were rebuilt under federal government guidance. It occurred on the heels of the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1870 which prohibited denying voting rights to citizen's regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

During this time, many blacks voted, secured land and property, held jobs, and were voted into public office. Violence against black voters was suppressed, however, and the Ku Klux Klan formed and strengthened to counter these rights. This era ended in 1877, and many blacks were disenfranchised.

After much marching, bloodshed and debate, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. looking on. This piece of legislation outlawed discriminatory voting practices against African Americans. In the 21st century, however, many voter ID laws have been proposed to "protect" voting by unauthorized persons.

Then came the Supreme Court decision this week, Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Attorney General et al. This decision removes the stipulation that certain states have to receive approval from the federal government before any voting laws are amended or enacted. Some civil rights advocates predict voter's rights will be curtailed, black elected officials will lose their seats, and redistricting will take place.

In Georgia, all this comes while several black officials are being convicted, investigated, and removed from office.  In 2004, former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell was convicted for tax evasion and served two years in federal prison. In March 2013, retired Atlanta School Board Superintendent Beverly Hall was indicted by a grand jury in relation to her role in a cheating scandal as well as several other school officials.

In May 2013, noted civil rights leader and State Representative Tyrone Brooks was indicted by federal authorities for fraud and tax evasion. Brooks claims that the CIA has targeted him for prosecution for his investigation into the lynching of a black couple in 1946. Last week, DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis was indicted on 15 criminal charges. Do we see a pattern here??? The old guard of the civil rights movement are now elderly or resting in their graves. Will new leaders step in to continue King's dream of a free society, of a Beloved Community?

If black leaders have done something illegal, they should be investigated and prosecuted, but if they are being targeted to cool down advances since passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that's another story. How this movement will be counteracted - whether by boycotts, marching, or strict defense in the courts - will be closely watched by those interested in the political process.

Paula Deen throws stone back at accusers

Calling a kettle "black" or a "spade a spade" could be misinterpreted in today's world.
Did the pot call the kettle black?  Accused of being a racist by her white restaurant employee, cooking star Paula Deen defended herself in a tearful interview on this morning's Today Show by using a well known biblical analogy: John 8:7. Jesus told the accusers of an adulterous woman to let the person among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. I was very surprised that Dean didn't ask her interviewer, Matt Lauer, if he had ever used the "N" word!

If Deen had called me a "nigger" to my face, I probably would have been fighting mad, but I don't know the woman and will probably never meet her. Words can be hurtful, and being caught using the wrong ones at the wrong time can have disastrous financial consequences for celebrities and business people. Sometimes, though, they can have a tendency to make bigmouths more endearing. I hadn't even thought about Paula Deen recently or watched her show lately, and now I'm writing this post about her. Go figure. Remember Martha Stewart and her incarceration in a federal penitentiary for shady stock dealing?  Stewart's net worth last year was $970m!

In Deen's case, she admitted she has used the word "nigger" before, but not in a demeaning way. After that admission, several of her sponsors dropped her, and her famed cooking show has been cancelled. Deen contends that she is not racist and wonders why people think she is a bad person for using the word "nigger" once in her life. Deen may be the kind person she portends to be; who am I to judge.

Looking back at the word's history, the term was used by people who referred to black slaves from Niger as "niggers." This word later was used to connote persons who were lazy. Many Southerners during the mid-20th century bastardized the word "Negro" to "Negra" which was a slap in the face to African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement when blacks were fighting racial segregation. Comedian David Chappelle uses "nigga" all the time, while The Boondock's Aaron McGruder throws it around in his comic strip and TV show.

I remember a comedy skit during that time in which a black man was asked why he was infuriated when whites called him "nigger" and didn't mind when his sweetheart did. "That's because she wakes up every morning, kisses me, and calls me her SWEET NIGGER," which means intent is everything when communicating politically charged words. My maternal grandma use to wake me up in the morning and tickle my toes, saying, "Good morning, my little nigga toes."  I loved my grandmother dearly, even though she was born in the late 1880's in North Carolina where racism left its toll.

Calling someone "Uncle Tom" or "Colored" is looked upon with contempt today, but once these were familial words. Any words which separate us from each other, which make us feel better than someone else, can become hurtful; however, if everyone who has ever spoken the words "nigger", "spic", "slut," "bitch," "fag," "raghead", "kite," or "wetback" were due to be punished, possibly all of us would be under the jail!

Kettle photo: Holger Ellgaar, GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Alabama wins Supreme Court case against Voting Rights Act

The South has climbed one step closer to rising again.

Today the United States Supreme Court sided with the great state of Alabama and overturned a key component in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This historic decision has happened while Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama are in charge. 

In her dissent to the ruling, Justice Ruth Ginsburg was joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. Ginsburg said the success of the Voting Rights Act demands its dormancy, in other words, it should have been left alone.

"Recognizing that large progress has been made, Congress determined, based on a voluminous record, that the scourge of discrimination was not yet extirpated," Ginsburg said in her dissent. The Court was persuaded otherwise, and now Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, and Virginia will not have to pass any changes to state voting laws before federal officials.

States rights in the South have won, and conservatives are rejoicing. It was reported that Georgia Congressman Johnny Isakson said he is proud of the South after today's ruling, a South which has a history of disenfranchising voters. 

Voter's rights are still protected, but we will see what the South's next move to turn the political tide will be. To read the ruling, go to: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-96_6k47.pdf

Photo by Tomi Johnson

Monday, June 24, 2013

Journalists as targets

Photo by Tomi Johnson
   Do you think journalists and bloggers should be penalized for telling the truth???  
     
     Once upon a time, I was a reporter for a public television station in Kentucky.  One of my most memorable assignments was uncovering the historical significance of an incident which occurred in Corbin, Ky. It was documented that in 1919, the town’s black residents were herded onto railroad cars and taken away from the place with the “sundown” reputation – blacks were told to be gone before sunset.

     When I got to Corbin, I was labeled a troublemaker and threatened by the Chamber of Commerce president who viewed my investigation into the past bad publicity. Little did I realize that an industrial park was being built there, and the town’s leaders were afraid that potential corporate landlords would view past racial tensions too intense and risky for business development. When I returned to the television station with the story in the can, the operators who had received a call from the CC president forbade me to broadcast the information.
     Today, metadata says and proves all, and it is released feverishly on the Internet by institutional and self-proclaimed journalists.  Journalistic metadata is powerful, but handling it is tricky. An investigative journalist may uncover secrets, but the information may be suppressed by the organization s(he) works for since all such entities have their own political and marketing agendas. The true starving journalist may blog uncompensated but still run the risk of becoming a government or institutional target.
     Case in point: The United Kingdom policy document, Joint Doctrine Publication 3-45.1: Media Operations, was promulgated by the Chiefs of Staff in 2007 and describes instructions on handling military media operations. The policy states that while the entire UK population is usually considered the "principal target", the "most influential target" is “people who hold disproportionate influence on the direction of government and public thinking and policy development."
     Included in this target group are newspaper columnists and journalists who often do more than report news but voice opinions on current affairs. I think bloggers have also been added to this group, for I have been told by a human resources professional that blogging or any type of social media reporting may limit employment opportunities. One question asked on a recent online job application was whether I ever used social media as a reporting vehicle.
     This makes it very disheartening when your craft deals with disseminating information. Mainstream media disarms you, but you feel compelled to tell what you know. Metadata(pen) being mightier than the sword cuts both ways. This is a hard revelation for inspiring journalists, but advice which must be heeded.   

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lamborghini driver spotted in ATL's Atlantic Station

Anyone know who the white-gloved driver of this eggplant-colored Lamborghini is? He was spotted driving away from Atlantic Station around 5 p.m. on June 16.

Other colorful characters spotted at the Station included a woman in a scarfed top and a man in a blue outfit. Any idea who these folks are?


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Edward Snowden should have stayed in line...

While waiting to re-enter the building after recess in grade school, another kid broke in front of me. When I told Sister Anthony, someone I respected, I was chastised.

"Don't be a tattletale," she said. The line breaker went free, and I learned a quick life lesson. Although truth-telling is in the blood, you have to be careful and ready for unintended consequences. 

Enter Edward Snowden, the world's latest tragic person who faced an ethical dilemma and was compelled to broadcast what he thought were important secrets. But government spying on citizens is not new, therefore, Snowden's "secret" telling should not be such a big deal. It is, however, and he will probably never be hired again and will have to micro-manage staying alive.

Lesson learned: keep your mouth shut when you see or hear things that you know in your gut are not right. Don't snitch when someone breaks rank. Mind your own business. 

Step back in line.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Black or white? Does it still matter?

"I Said If You're Thinkin' Of Being My Brother, It Don't Matter If You're Black Or White" --Michael Jackson

With Ventra Mapp and Mae Scott Kidd in Louisville, Ky. - 1980's  (Photo by Kurk Johnson)

Do you think being BLACK AND BEAUTIFUL has lost its flavor???

Lately I've been contemplating my views on being African American. I recently found an old photograph of me and the late Kentucky Representative Mae Scott Kidd who once said, ""Most of us, whether white or black, are mixtures of many races and nationalities...Because I was neither completely white nor completely black, I've been stigmatized and penalized by both races." (From the book Passing for Black: The Life and Careers of Mae Street Kidd)

Kidd, however, was one of the legislators who successfully helped get the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery ratified in Kentucky on March 18, 1976. She also served a number of charitable organizations focused on helping African Americans, including the Lincoln Foundation and the Louisville Urban League. Kidd was a graduate of Lincoln Institute, the only school in Kentucky where blacks could get a high school education before integration, and she helped disadvantaged youth.

Should I continue to identify with being Black? My hair still curls when it gets wet. My birth certificate states my mother and father were both Negro.  I was brought up Black, raised on an HBCU, produced "Black" television shows, and write blog posts focusing on African Americans. My husband's birth certificate states one parent was Negro and the other was Colored. My husband's DNA analysis found his ancestors were from Europe, Mexico, Australia and Africa. He recently was baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church, an "eastern" religion. Is God's image Black or White?

Recently I had a yard sale, and none of my Black memorabilia sold. "It doesn't pay to be Black," said my brother-in-law recently when discussing my failing to earn a living from focusing on Black contributions to society. He suggested that I take up making balloon sculptures at kid's birthday parties because it would pay more than writing about black accomplishments.

This is really a political AND cultural question: Should race matter? Does it matter if I'm Black or White?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Don't dress dad in this for Father's Day!

My dad has been dead for decades, but I would never dress him in this outfit. OMG, I wouldn't dress any man in these duds - would you?

Call the fashion police...I complained that this was the ugliest men's outfit I had ever seen. What do you think? Appearing at Macy's in metro Atlanta.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Greek Orthodox Christians display God's bounty at Festival

An estimated 18,000 people will be served by volunteers before cultural event ends today.
OPINION:  Never in a thousand years would I have imagined contemplating joining a Greek Orthodox congregation. It's funny how we grow and change during our spiritual journey, and I'm at the precipice of falling in love with orthodoxy after receiving the bountiful gifts exhibited at the three-day, 23rd annual Greek Festival held in Marietta, Ga. which ends today on the grounds of Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church.

επίθ. πλουσιόδωρος, γενναιόδωρος is Greek to me but has become more understandable after witnessing the time, love, and effort put into the Festival by volunteers working 12+ hour shifts, doing the utmost for God and community. Evident here are people willing to give and receive blessings.

Let the pictures do the talking...here are some of my festival favorites.

Young man surveys map of festival grounds. Comfortable shoes were worn for walking and dancing.
Greek Orthodox Christians are not teetotalers and like to serve liquid refreshments at celebrations.

Mothers and daughters shared colors, belts...
...and smiling braces!

Friday night featured dancing with fire. (Photo by Ilea Johnson)
Greek food is a festival staple which draws crowds every year, despite forecasted rain.

 Hats, scarves, and jewelry were best non-food items.

Cross-culturally, hair threading and caricatures were among Egyptian artifacts.
 
Protopresbyter Father P. (Dr. Panayiotis Papageorgiou) mingled in crowd in church amphitheater in between dancing sessions.

 A band from Ohio played Greek songs which seemed to last an eternity.

Volunteers at a busy booth were serving Baklava sundaes during the heat.


Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church is a non-profit which sponsors the event every year. Guests can learn about the religion by buying books, especially this one written in plain English.

To learn more about the Festival, go to: http://mariettagreekfestival.org/

©2013 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.